We city-dwellers love Sai Kung… once we’re there. But the journey to and fro is often a pain. The three-hour round trip means we can often only fit in a quick flirtation with the coastline and a seafood dinner before it’s time to get back on the bus home. Hardcore beach lovers from Hong Kong Island who want to hit the waves at Tai Long Wan by lunchtime pretty much have to get up at sunrise to make it – and who wants to do that at the weekend? Instead, why not take your time and go for a weekend to fully immerse yourself in everything Sai Kung has to offer.
You might get stares in the office but plan ahead on Friday morning and pack everything you need to take along to work with you. We’re guessing the timely stomach rumble around 6pm as you leave your desk will mean that you want to get to Sai Kung asap for dinner. So leave the tie and jacket, grab the weekend bag, and hop on the MTR. Make your way to Choi Hung station, take exit C2 and get on green minibus No A1, which terminates in Sai Kung (the 92 also goes but is slower). Journey time is a little over an hour from Central or Tsim Sha Tsui. If you’re coming from the east of Hong Kong Island, go to Hang Hau MTR where you can get the 101M minibus form exit B1.
Once you’ve arrived at the bus terminus, make a beeline for the waterfront and Sai Kung’s unrivalled seafood. Choose your aquatic creature(s) of choice from the enormous tank displays, tell the server how you want them cooked, and get ready for an unbeatably fresh sea-caught meal. Hoi Pong Street has the best of the bunch and our pick is Chuen Kee Seafood Restaurant (51-55 Hoi Pong St, 2791 1195; meal for two around $800).
After dinner, stock up on a few drinks from 7-Eleven or the supermarket and give your lovely hosts for the night, Ling and Don, a call (6501 0119, $500 per night for one room). Their guestroom (sleeps up to three) is one of the few accommodation options we wereable to track down in Sai Kung town and most definitely needs to be booked in advance. The place is hard to find so they will happily pick you up from the town’s bus terminus. Your room will be basic but the best bit about their house is the roof terrace complete with hammocks (what the drinks are for). Chill with a beer under the stars. It certainly makes a change from Friday night in Soho or Mong Kok.
You’re going to need lots of enery for the day ahead, so make sure you get a good hearty breakfast in town. Cru’s (18 Wan King Path, 2791 1792; meal for two around $200) by the old town square dishes up exactly what a weekend brunch should be – the fry-ups and Eggs Benedict hit the spot nicely. You could also grab a quick beef satay noodles at Dragon Boat Restaurant (94 Man Nin St, 2792 2319) or a pain au chocolate at Ali Oli Bakery (11 Sha Tsui Path, 2792 2655). If you stayed at Po Leung Kuk Holiday Camp, you can order breakfast there. Make sure you also stock up on some water for the day ahead.
Tai Long Wan is still deservedly the largest draw among Sai Kung’s bevy of beaches and is always worth a trip when in this neck of the woods. The 94 bus (either from Sai Kung town or Pak Tam Chung) will take you to Pak Tam Au, where the two- to three-hour trek begins into Tai Long Wan’s bounty of clear waters and silky sand.
There are cheat cards, such as being chauffeured by boat (from Wong Shek Pier to Chek Kung) or car ($85 taxi or the infrequent bus 29A to Sai Wan Ting from Sai Kung Town) which will cut the distance in half. But to quote an old Taoist saying, “The journey is the reward”. The scenery on the way is as postcard perfect as the beach.
Once there, frolic all you want in the sand and the waves. This is also your resting place for the night. Carol Lai (2328 2315), owner of Hoi Fung store along Ham Tin beach offers three rooms backing onto her store (sleeps up to five people for $100 per person per night). We preferred however to pitch up in one of the tents she rents out (there are two/four/six person tents at a cost of $100/$150/$200 a night respectively), or you can bring your own. Meanwhile, the Hoi Fung Store serves up noodles, fried rice, and beers to set you up for the evening. After the sun is down, it’s as good a time as any to have another swim – (whether you go in your birthday suit or swimsuit is up to you). If you’re lucky, you might even see some ocean phosphorescence– just make sure you’re not too intoxicated before you dive in.
If you’ve already done Tai Long Wan to death, an alternative, albeit similar, stretch of vista to visit is Long Ke Wan. A taxi can drive you most of the way from Sai Kung town to leave just a 20-minute walk (ask for the East Dam, $200 one way). Alternatively, if you’re willing to forfeit a lie-in for an all-day excursion, it’s a three- to four-hour trek from Pak Tam Chung, skirting the scenic High Island Reservoir. Take enough water and food (and booze) since there are no dining options on the way or at the beach. Short of camping at the beach, the nearest place to stay afterwards is in Pak Lap Beach, about an hour’s walk away, south of the Man Yee Road. Albert Cham is an amiable elderly gentleman who offers two rooms in a traditional village house which can sleep up to four (3129 3055, $300 per room per night).
Rise early to grab some breakfast on the beach before making your way back to Pak Tam Chung. From here, there is a short, relaxing stroll, set in the woods of Sai Kung Country Park that leads to the quaint Sheung Yiu Folk Museum (2792 6365). Don’t expect an immersive nature experience though; displays explaining the surrounding flora intermittently, and somewhat intrusively, mark the trail. When the neighbouring holiday camp is busy, the screams and yelps of children filtering through the trees can also quickly infringe upon your newfound tranquillity.
If yesterday’s beaches haven’t satisfied your appetite for the sea, then take a boat trip to one of the numerous islands encircling the peninsula. A few of the islands are frequented by ferries but most of them require the services of a sampan. Unfortunately, negotiating one can be a hassle. The ever helpful bilingual team at Explore Sai Kung (8 Tak Lung Back St, 2243 1083) are happy to act as a mediator to arrange an island-hopping itinerary, and lunch, tailored to your interests. Prices are roughly $1,000 for two for a day’s outing, but it’s better value if you bring a group.
You can also call Paul Etherington (9300 5197), a Sai Kung veteran of over 20years, who takes out groups (minimum of six) on kayaking tours. You’ll get to visit some of the more remote islands and weave through cave formations and sea arches. Prices are $900 per person for a day trip and lunch is included.
Take note however that if you choose these options, you will need to be in Sai Kung town by 8.30am on Sunday morning. This will require you to either make it back the night before from Tai Long Wan and stay in town again, or if you stayed at Pak Lap Beach, to walk up to Man Yee Road and get a taxi back. Both operators need to be booked well in advance.
Back in Sai Kung town, round off your weekend with a lazy cappuccino or beer at Steamers (66 Yi Chun St, 2792 6991). If you don’t fancy seafood again, check out the various restaurants on Po Tung Road. Afterwards, if you’re in no hurry to return home, it’s worth going for a tipple at Brit-owned pub The Boozer (57 Yi Chun St, 2792 9311). Enigma (72-74 Po Tung Rd, 2791 7222) is also deserving of a stop for its live music. Atmosphere however is definitely hit or miss depending on if the Sai Kung crowd decide to have a local pint or venture into Central and Wan Chai.
On Sundays, additional buses service the main destinations in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. All of them leave from the Sai Kung Town bus terminus up to around midnight.
For more details, such as full bus timetables, maps, important phone numbers and general information go on exploresaikung.com or visit the Explore Sai Kung store (8 Tak Lung Back St, 2243 1083).